Posted on: September 17, 2021 Posted by: Glacier Staff Comments: 0

Photo courtesy of Jana Svec

Climate change is leading to local effects such as flooding and drought, says environmental and earth science professor Jana Svec.

By JRN 111 Students

Climate change may seem like an impending doom, but there are “affordable and accessible” ways we can combat it, says Jana Svec, professor of environmental and earth science.

“Must we change? Can we change? Will we change?” The answer to all three questions is yes, Svec said Tuesday during her talk, “Climate Reality: Catalyzing Solutions to the Climate Crisis.” Svec is a trained presenter for The Climate Reality Project, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to “catalyze a global solution to the climate crisis by making urgent action a necessity across every sector of society.”

“Hope demands action, and there is so much you can do,” she said. “Your vote, your voice and your choices really do matter. Every individual has an impact and we can make a difference.”

The event was hosted by the library as part of the One Book One College program. This year’s “one book” choice is All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis from Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine K. Wilkinson. 

Must we change?

Photo courtesy of Jana Svec
Urban sewer systems can’t handle flooding, says Jana Svec, whose neighbor experienced a flooded basement in a recent storm.

The current climate crisis is not only worldwide, but also right in our backyards, Svec pointed out. The Midwest is already experiencing extreme heat, flooding and drought, a decrease in tree species, and overrun sewers. 

“In the last 10 years, extremely hot days have become more common,” Svec said. The state of Illinois is “going to be a Southern climate. We already feel like we are right now, but even more so.” 

According to the website States at Risk, Illinois is expected to see a 500 percent increase in heat wave days by 2050, from 10 to 60. Peoria is currently the 22nd fastest warming city in the U.S.

Worldwide, temperature records are constantly being broken, and the heat is destroying coral reefs and promoting algae growth that’s harming our marine life, Svec said. Glaciers are melting quicker and quicker and contributing to rising sea levels, which are taking people’s coastal property. Many tropical diseases are expanding their range. Severe hurricanes used to be once every 500 years, now they’re once every 25 years, and might get to the point of being once every 5. 

The trajectory we are on now would force a shift that has never happened in 4 million years, and it would be as soon as three generations from now if we don’t take action, Svec says.

The climate crisis “is contributing to the worst extinction event since the dinosaurs,” she said. 

Can we change?

With the magnitude of the problem, many people wonder if it’s possible for us to change.  

“The answer is very exciting,” Svec says. “We have the solutions available to us.”

We are in the midst of a  “sustainability revolution” that has the magnitude of the industrial revolution and the speed of the digital revolution, she said. New jobs can help create a better system to slow down climate change, according to Svec. 

Several states in the U.S. have committed to lowering their carbon emissions to a net zero, and some of them have already reached that goal. Solar energy is becoming increasingly popular, and enough sunlight hits the Earth every hour to power the globe for an entire year. LED lights and electric vehicles are slowly taking the place of their more harmful predecessors, fluorescent lights and gas powered vehicles. 

“Over 240 multi-national companies have made a pledge to go to 100 percent sustainable energy,” Svec said.

By 2025. half of the world’s busses will be electric, and Tesla is already making electric trucks.

Will we change?

Svec pointed out that little changes can go a long way to helping save our planet. 

She highlighted the importance of being a conscious consumer. People should switch to LED light bulbs and consider leaving lights off when they’re not necessary. Switching to a more plant-based diet can also be helpful, as factory farms are one of the most environmentally damaging parts of modern society and are also oftentimes unethical. Avoiding single use plastics and demanding for companies to be more environmentally conscious could create big changes in the future. 

“Every little thing matters,” Svec said. “Little steps lead to bigger steps lead to even bigger steps.” 

Unfortunately, she said, Moraine has actually “taken several steps backward” during the COVID-19 pandemic. The college used to have someone serving as sustainability manager, but that person has left and the job has gone unfilled.

Library chair Troy Swanson, who moderated the talk, said the college has a new Go Green club started by fellow librarian Tish Hayes, and encouraged students to join.

“The most important thing to fight climate change is to talk about it,” Svec said.

Marisa Bresnahan, Marcus Collins, Connor Dore, Rosie Finnegan, Colin Kroll, Anais Rangel and Nick Stulga contributed to this report.